By Tony Attwood
If we do nothing, next season will be like this: the anti-Arsenal and their media allies shutting up during the good runs, and then coming out and attacking the manager viciously and remorselessly after any defeat or perceived poor performance.
Yes, the media and the aaa’s combined propaganda efforts this season were brilliant – we must admit that. Arsenal had a superb run early in the season – in fact it went on to 31 January by which time we had suffered just 3 league defeats. Three too many the aaa would say, but given that Chelsea lost five times in the league this season, not too awful within the context.
Then the bad run started, and within days the banners came back and the grim-mouthed non-smilers paraded their banners and mouthed their chants. The media loved it and reported that “Arsenal fans are…” well, whatever we were supposed to be at that moment, even though a blind man with a bucket on his head in a collapsed coalmine after dark could see that the majority in the ground were still supporting the team.
But such was the power of the alliance of the media and the aaa that soon the mood of negativity pervaded, and even nine wins and one defeat in the last ten was not enough to dissuade the haters.
Sadly the club has been here before. We’ve told the Jack Lambert story of how our most brilliant goalscorer of all time was picked on by what Herbert Chapman dubbed the boo-boys. He, like Mr Wenger, spoke out against this viper inside the club, but he too struggled to fight them when the press joined in.
Sadly, by then, Sir Henry Norris, the one chairman of Arsenal who could always be relied upon to take on the media (not to mention anyone else spoiling for a fight) who would always uphold the good name of Arsenal, had gone. Sir Henry’s vitriolic attacks on (for example) the FA for the terrible way it treated Tom Whittaker after he was injured on an FA tour, were something to behold and made him a hero of all Arsenal supporters. Here was a man who stood up in public for Arsenal and everyone knew that the club always had a staunch defender. (And by the way if you are tempted to claim that Sir Henry was a crook, you might want to do your research first – that was a story put about by his enemies, and was certainly not true.)
After Sir Henry, media and fan attacks on Arsenal and Arsenal players grew, as when Jimmy Logie who came under attack in probably the most outrageous and nasty campaign of all in 1953. Tom Whittaker, Logie’s manager took up the fight, and eventually the club arranged for corrective articles and a rebuttal article to appear in press.
Later, as Arsenal historian Jon Spurling recounts, Peter Goring was abused after the Sunderland defeat in 1953 by a fan and for once the player spoke out, saying, “I wasn’t the only player to be confronted in such a way. Some of the other boys also got hassle from fans which wasn’t nice,… some of those fans were very hard to please…”
Spurling also says that on one occasion, “One of Goring’s team mates snapped and told the Daily Mail journalist… that he was “ashamed of the crowd and considered them to most unsporting collection in the country.”
Partially as a result of this, the team broke up and the dark ages of the club began – there were no more trophies until 1969. As the club tried to buy new players they found it increasingly hard as players simply didn’t want to play for Arsenal.
In recent times Amy Lawrence in the Guardian started a vitriolic campaign with the headline, “Kronky and Wenger are too close for Arsenal’s good.” She carried it on remorselessly, and didn’t even apologise when her infamous “Arsenal had only two goalscorers in double figures last season” piece was published and revealed (through a five second analysis) for what it was – a fantasy knocking story whose sole purpose was to be negative about the club.
What would rescue the club, as I have said before, would be a return to the ownership style of Sir Henry Norris who never once was afraid to put his point, and truly could make the supporters feel they were part of a club that would stand up to the establishment.
There are so many more examples of the boo-boys, the media and the aaa destroying Arsenal over and over that I can’t run them all. Jon Sammels was sold to Leicester for £100,000, after becoming a victim of the “boo-boys” in the crowd. He had played 215 league games including in the first Double season but that element in the crowd that Arsenal have suffered from even since Chapman, was out in force, and it was Sammels they went for.
Just occasionally the Board has stood up for the club. As with the Fairs Cup in 1970, when Arsenal began their defence of the trophy on 16 September. The first leg of round 1 ended Lazio 2 Arsenal 2 with Radford scoring both goals, but it was not so much the game that was remembered but rather the fact that after the match the two teams went to have a meal together and a fight broke out. The newspapers went berserk on the issue.
As a result the talk was all about events in Italy and the club was not at all impressed. Indeed in a move that is very unlikely to be seen again, the Arsenal programme published a letter seriously and directly criticising the Evening Standard’s reporting of the club. Something we never see any more.
If only even that modest protest could be seen today, let alone the robust nature of Sir Henry Norris’ approach then we would stand a chance against the media and their aaa chums. Yet since his demise the club has allowed the tales of Sir Henry’s alleged crooked methods at getting Arsenal into the first division to proliferate. It took the Arsenal History Society – which receives no support from the club – to show definitively what an utter pack of lies that story is. (10 March 1919, Arsenal elected. Find the bribery and get the reward).
And in case you think that Sir Henry was kicked out for stealing money from the club – that’s another myth. He was unhappy with what Fulham directors had said about him, and sued. League rules say that one club director cannot sue another, so he was forced to resign as chair of Arsenal.
What we need is a strong and vigorous board that stands up for our manager and takes on the press, and it has to start now. Otherwise we will never see off this menace in our midst.
- José Mourinho on Twitter in March, “Chelsea will win the FA Cup. Spurs will win the title.”
- It is such a shame that the FA Cup is not a trophy, because…
- The FA Cup Final. The clubs’ records for April & May (remarkably similar!) and the Arsenal team